Last week was not a big week for the comic industry. Only a few new issues of note came out, but the ones that did were pretty damn impressive. Image showed us that a horror comic with a female lead doesn’t have to be a feminist text and Batgirl and Black Widow relied heavily on their artists and colorists, a risk that paid off. It was a bang-up week for stories with less dialogue. The artists took center stage.
Here were the best new comics:
The Discipline #1
In its first issue, Image’s The Discipline feels like a bait-and-switch. Though it technically follows a female lead through a dark fantasy storyline, her agency isn’t as important as the opinions of her held by the horde of horny male monsters she meets. The comic’s writer, Peter Milligan, is best known for stories about young skinheads, Hellblazer, and Batman, and his signature tone carries over into The Discipline.
I was excited to see the comic begin with a sex scene between two monsters, but was disappointed when the story backtracked in order to follow its archetypal lead. One of the monsters tells Melissa she’s “sexually unfulfilled” because she’s only orgasmed as of late through masturbation, which is an iffy statement. Maybe we’re supposed to take the monsters’ ideas as naïve, though I doubt it. Melissa certainly doesn’t put up much of a fight.
Regardless, I’ll definitely stick with a comic that focuses this heavily on Goya paintings and monsters. Fans of dark, semi-sexy fantasies like Once Upon a Time, American Horror Story, and True Blood will find this one intriguing.
Black Widow #1
Good God, this comic is gorgeous. We follow Natasha Romanoff on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives who, on the comic’s first page, are ordered to capture her at all costs. Natasha doesn’t speak until the last panel, and even then she utters only two words.
Black Widow’s new debut is a stunning work of artistic showmanship. You get the impression, reading it, that Waid and Samnee and were told simply to go nuts with the visuals and show the reader what Natasha (an Avenger without superpowers) can really do. She jumps out of a plane, releases a Widow-branded spoke bomb, steals a jetpack and a motorcycle, and kisses an enemy’s helmet before shoving him into free fall. I’m one of the Marvel fans who finds Natasha boring in the MCU, so I’d actually be down to read a regular Black Widow series that was exactly like this every issue: devoid of unnecessary Marvel-esque complications — a rhapsodic, wordless, and blood-soaked mural. Fans of Alias, 24, and Homeland will want to follow Black Widow in her new solo run.
I’ve been reading different Batgirl comics for more than a decade, and this was the first issue to actually give me chills. After her memories were compromised by the Fugue, Batgirl lays prone in this issue, as Black Canary and Frankie travel through Bab’s subconscious, Inception-style. More engaging than the plot is the comic’s artistic metamorphosis. Guest artists Horacio Domingues, Roger Robinson, Ming Doyle, James Harvey, and Serge LaPointe illustrate separate aspects of Batgirl’s mind in their individual styles.
I wasn’t aware of James Harvey before reading this issue of Batgirl, but he’s gained himself a fan. His Batgirl pages have all the attention to detail and spooky multidimensionality of Chris Ware at the top of his game. Seeing Babs in her Oracle-style wheelchair, and a dark panel featuring a Killing Joke-style Joker grin is absolutely bone-chilling. I’d recommend this run of Batgirl to fans of hallucinatory thrillers like Hannibal or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
A-Force (2016) has a tougher job than many Marvel comics. Though the prior A-Force series needed only to introduce its female heroes and make them argue and fight alongside each other, this second series has to convince readers that the core group — She-Hulk, a butch roller derby Dazzler, Medusa, Nico, Singularity, and Captain Marvel — are the A-Forcers worth following.
So far, it’s not looking great. Although Jorge Molina’s art is clean and colorful, and G. Willow Wilson’s dialogue feels fluid and natural, these characters just don’t pop the way some of Marvel’s other female heroes do. Why are we dealing with five stern women who all speak the same way, when the Marvel comic universe has characters like Hellcat, the funny version of She-Hulk, Moon Girl, Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and Gwenpool? For a large-scope, intergalactic adventure comic, A-Force is kind of a bummer.
Fans of super serious justice-y fiction like The Americans, The Good Wife, and Madam Secretary will enjoy A-Force as it stands now.